Obama Must Support the People of Syria and Iran

June 13, 2011

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, sees the Islamic Republic of Iran as its closest ally in the region. While Al-Assad has pledged to help find a peaceful solution to the nuclear dispute between the West and Iran, he continues to support Hamas and Hezbollah. Meanwhile it has been revealed that Syria had obtained a sophisticated radar system and other military equipment, which were shared with Hezbollah, Iran and Syria's Shiite radical client with a vehemently anti-American ideological agenda.

The Obama Administration has cautiously reached out to Syria advocating open negotiations and better relations. Believing that Syria is a key regional player that cannot be ignored it sent George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East to meet with the Syrian president. Yet these negotiations have fallen on deaf ears as Al-Assad publicly humiliated the United States.

The Administration uses a two-fold approach to address the pro-democracy protests in the Middle East and North Africa. One the one hand it pushes one tyrant to go, and on the other it calls Al-Assad a "reformer." The Administration has advocated a muted message on Syria. Similar to mass protests in Iran calling for end of the tyrannical Iranian government, the people have been ignored.

Ironically the Administration has been vocal in other nations where neutral to pro-American regimes have suppressed demonstrators. Contrary to Obama's foreign policy claims, neither the Iranian nor Syrian regime is stable. For instance, Syria saw demonstrations begin in March 2011, after people had seen the regime change which protests in Egypt and Tunisia had brought about. In Iran, a young, educated and pro-American populace has demonstrated since 2009 for freedom, democracy and human rights against one of the most anti-American governments in the world. Surprisingly the President's message has been hollow.

The anti-American nature of these governments means that negotiations instigated by the US Administration would be impossible. Similarly, despite the recent military intervention in Libya, President Obama would be extremely reluctant to go to war with any additional countries in the Middle East. The third option, and the one which time has proven to be the most effective, is to use twenty-first century technology to communicate directly with the people of these countries.

Recent developments in Middle Eastern and North African territories have shown that the people have been utilizing online services such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with others in the West. This provides the perfect opportunity for the US government to be able to support demonstrators in their actions against their oppressive leaders. Despite these governments' attempts to restrict access to the internet, technology has advanced to such an extent that communication will always be possible.

The use of technology to assist and communicate with protesters is certainly a preferably option to starting wars, which are not only prohibitively expensive, but also result in horrendous losses of life. This would be a counter-productive course of action by the US Administration, as it would result in a previously pro-American population uniting and rising up against their attackers. As technology advances, however, it will allow people to educate themselves and unite to bring about democracy in their countries.

It is undeniable that the unprecedented numbers of protests in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 have occurred as a result of advances in technology. The people have been able to mobilize themselves due to better means of communication. They have also been able to broadcast their protests to the rest of the world. In addition to the protests in Iran and Syria, the West has witnessed demonstrations in such countries as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In many countries the demonstrations continue, meaning that there is an opportunity for the US Administration to use technology to help the people in their struggles.

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Copyright ©2011 Slater Bakhtavar

Slater Bakhtavar is an attorney, journalist, author, and political commentator. He is the author of “Iran: The Green Movement”. He has appeared on hundreds of network radio shows, including G. Gordon Liddy, Crosstalk America, Les in the Morning, NPR, Jim Bohannon Show, and VOA.